Ex-Sujal is what Rajeev Khandelwal is known as today. After Kahiin Toh Hoga, Rajeev is currently riding on the good TRPs that his new serial Time Bomb is receiving. "I am over Sujal" (his character in Kahiin Toh Hoga), he says, but there is a slight tug at his heart at letting go of a character so close to him. With feet firmly planted on the ground, Rajeev treads the path of stardom knowing he has to constantly prove himself. Building Varun's character in his new serial, this good-looker from Delhi, is here to stay for sure.
Now that you have left Kahiin Toh Hoga and Sujal… is he out from your system as well?
Well, not completely though today I have accepted the fact that I am no longer playing Sujal. He always was and will remain a huge part of me, but I have overcome a Kahiin… hangover. I have told people around me on the sets not to talk much about Sujal for I don't want to live in the past. With my new show I have launched myself on a new path. At times I do feel scared and nervous but then the fact that I had a successful show behind me gives me the moral support I need.
So, why did you leave the show if the character was so close to you?
The show wasn't working out for me. The characters and their tracks weren't taking a logical path. So, instead of just standing on the same location and saying the same lines, I opted out. I need to be explained to as to what I am doing in the serial and why I am doing it. I can't work like a robot. I have to be convinced about scenes. I differed with scenes written for me and didn't agree with most of the things given to me. Earlier, when I spoke about leaving I was promised a good character track but nothing significant happened so I realized it wasn't working out for me and so I quit… though with a heavy heart. It isn't easy to decide to quit a successful show that too when you are playing the lead role. Yet, I wish them all the best and I am sure Ekta and Gurpreet, the actor who replaced me as Sujal, will do a fine job.
Tell us about your new show Time Bomb?
It's an international political thriller wherein I play an officer from RAW who has to save the Prime Minister who has become the target of a terrorist attack. He will be attacked the next day. Thus, the serial depicts one hour of the day, per day. And is very racy. It has a different style of narration that excites me a lot. Obviously I have not done anything like this before or seen something similar on television, so it is exciting for me to be part of the serial. But like Sujal, Varun my character in Time Bomb too doesn't have time to smile. The thing I like about Varun is that he isn't filmi or macho but very real and simple which, believe me, is tough to act.
From regular directors, a daily serial to a weekly and a director like Ketan Mehta, how does it feel?
Great! I get to learn a lot every day on the sets. I had to unlearn a lot of things and was exposed to a new form of direction. Ketanji's style is top class, obviously because he has done serials and films. I was a bit nervous during the first shot but he kept telling me not be filmi or melodramatic. I learnt to be realistic and natural. I had detailed discussions with Ketan and Deepa for the look, attitude, style etc. of the role. It is a great experience working with them and Time Bomb will be as special to me as Kahiin… was. The show is already garnering good TRPs and with a casting coup with Akashdeep Saigal, as part of the Time Bomb team, I am sure people are looking forward to more action on the show.
Time Bomb will be over in 24 weeks, so what's next? Are you looking at other serials too?
Well, it's too soon to even think about another show. Right now I'm totally engrossed in Time Bomb which doesn't take that many days as a daily would, so I get to relax. But I have had offers from almost every channel and want to take my time before I commit myself to anything.
Having walked out of Kahiin… the good relationship you shared with Ekta must be over by now. Right?
Wrong! To set the record straight, things aren't bad between Ekta and me. Ekta even invited me to her birthday party and as I have great respect for both Ekta as well as Shobha aunty, I wish them all the best as I am sure they would wish the same for me. Ekta and I have no problems with each other.
How would you describe yourself?
I am very simple person, honest, hate hypocrisy, have a candid approach to things and prefer people who are transparent. I believe in myself and in hard work. I don't believe in God. I am a gambler to the core, and am never tired of taking risks. I've always followed my instincts, taken a plunge and faced the music. I have a never-say- die attitude. I believe in myself and don't care about the world is thinking about my actions. And yes, I am as possessive and as passionate as Sujal.
You seem to have acquired an image of being arrogant.
I know it! This is because I refused offers from big television production houses. Kahiin To Hoga had just started. I had faith in the show and so I turned down these guys for I prefer working in one show at time. And people took it for arrogance. I am enjoying every bit of my success. I get a lot of offers even today but want to wait. I am quite insecure too and keep praying that I never have to beg for work. I personally feel that success breeds insecurity! I wanted all this but I am scared about how long it will last. There's much more that I want to do, to achieve. There have been film offers too but none were substantial ones. I am sure I'll get better ones in the future.
What about your love life? You have been linked with your Kahin… co-star Aamna Sharif.
To be linked to one's co-stars is but natural in this industry. But another reason could be that Aamna and I share a wonderful chemistry on screen. We are really good friends. That's all. Love did happen to me a long time ago but I lost her. I wouldn't want to name her, as it's a part of my past. All I'll admit is that she's not from Mumbai. She is a beautiful, intelligent and warm person. Everyone should fall in love I feel, even if you lose out later. But now I am sceptical about falling in love. As of today my focus is just work. One does get attracted to one's co-stars but then one has to get over it. It's a part of every actor's life and an everyday occurrence.